WIAS Preprint No. 2058, (2014)

Theory and structure of the metal/electrolyte interface incorporating adsorption and solvation effects


  • Dreyer, Wolfgang
  • Guhlke, Clemens
  • Landstorfer, Manuel

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 78A57 35Q35 34B15

2008 Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme

  • 82.45.Gj 68.43.-h 68.35.Md


  • Double Layer, Adsorption, Solvation, Surface Mixture Theory, Gouy-Chapman-Stern Model, Electrode/Electrolyte Interface


In this work we present a continuum theory for the metal/electrolyte interface which explicitly takes into account adsorption and partial solvation on the metal surface. It is based on a general theory of coupled thermo-electrodynamics for volumes and surfaces, utilized here in equilibrium and a 1D approximation. We provide explicit free energy models for the volumetric metal and electrolyte phases and derive a surface free energy for the species present on the metal surface. This surface mixture theory explicitly takes into account the very different amount of sites an adsorbate requires, originating from solvation effects on the surface. Additionally we account for electron transfer reactions on the surface and the associated stripping of the solvation shell. Based on our overall surface free energy we thus provide explicit expressions of the surface chemical potentials of all constituents. The equilibrium representations of the coverages and the overall charge are briefly summarized. Our model is then used to describe two examples: (i) a silver single crystal electrode with (100) face in contact to a (0.01M NaF + 0.01M KPF6) aqueous solution, and (ii) a general metal surface in contact to some electrolytic solution AC for which an electron transfer reaction occurs in the potential range of interest. We reflect the actual modeling procedure for these examples and discuss the respective model parameters. Due to the representations of the coverages in terms of the applied potential we provide an adsorption map and introduce adsorption potentials. Finally we investigate the structure of the space charge layer at the metal/surface/electrolyte interface by means of numerical solutions of the coupled Poisson-momentum equation system for various applied potentials. It turns out that various layers self-consistently form within the overall space charge region, which are compared to historic and recent pictures of the double layer. Based on this we present new interpretations of what is known as inner and outer Helmholtz-planes and finally provide a thermodynamic consistent picture of the metal/electrolyte interface structure.

Appeared in

  • Electrochimica Acta, 201 (2016) pp. 187--219.

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